Monday, November 17, 2014

Thoughts on a Candlelit Monday

This morning a winter rain falls on the heels of a polar wind. The last of wet leaves fall from their branches. A heavy fog has settled in our corner of the piney woods. My heart feels heavy too. The weather forces me to stillness. 

It's often the "little things" in life that interrupts focus from Truth and knocks me off-course. These days I find myself in new emotional territory as a mom. As usual I feel out of my depth. In truth, it's less about them, and more about me. Pride isn't easy to set down. Sadly, trusting never comes easy. For me, it is always the hard way.

In an attempt to comfort myself with the warmth of a cozy home I light candles, and the flame sparks a memory:

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them. I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do. I will not forsake them. (Isaiah 42:16)

Like the strike of a match it flares: gratitude for promises given, and promises kept. We're not meant to walk in foreign lands alone. He brings the light, He will do it. "You need only to be still."

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Taking it In

"Jesus looked at him and loved him." - Mark 10:21

There once was a rich young man who had every thing on earth he could possibly desire. But when the Savior of the world looked in his eyes, and loved Him, that rich young man missed what he needed most of all.

I've read this story so many times: perched upon the edges of small beds while tucking brown headed children in for the night; studying with like-minded women who seek comfort for their weary hearts; enfolded in quilts, on cold winter mornings, while candles burn and coffee brews.

I've read it, but this week those six little words have fallen like whispers on readied ears: "Jesus looked at him and loved him." And I wonder, am I missing what I need the most because my focus is wrong? Am I staring in the face of The Loveliest of All, and yet still considering what else I should do?

He looks at me, and he loves me? 

It's shocking, even after all these years.

This week has brought some amazing color to our little corner of the Carolina's. The trees are in full display and the sunsets have set my heart on the beauty of God's creative world. Several times I have been unable to adhere to the agenda; I've literally pulled off the road just to take it all in.

Golden leaves and fire skies. A walk in the woods with my man at my side. The beaming smile of a cowgirl at the end of the day. When I see these radiant displays of His glory, I can't help but ponder "he looks at us, and he love us… go and follow Him."

Isn't that what we all want, to be seen (truly known!) and loved anyway? With God that is possible. He promises it is so...

"Teach me, LORD, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end." ~Psalm 119:33

Friday, November 07, 2014

The Little House on the Hill: Gifts Recieved

This week has been full, and I am grateful to have had the time to contemplate and rest. We've had our share of hurts and hangups, but we've had more than our fair share of grace. I thought I'd share a few of  gifts I've been given this week:

~The time change. It changes more than just the minutes. It changes how I view them. The back yard is flooded with brilliant light that I would have missed just a week ago. Gaining an hour slows my pace and lengthens my thinking. There are still only 24 hours in the day, but something magical happens when the clock "falls back," allowing more time to enjoy beautiful warmth on a cool morning.

~ On Saturdays the people of this house scatter. It's very rare that we are all here, all day. Last weekend was the first weekend in so many months that we were all home. The Boy had a friend here, so I made a big pot of Albondiga soup and warmed up the tortillas. It had been so long since we had had a sit-down lunch together, it just made me happy. We still have dinner together most nights of the week, but there is something special about  breaking bread tortillas together when it isn't the normal way. It felt like a gift, and I'm thankful.

~I've written about the Camellia before, but her pink face shines when the cold winds blows in, and I'm thankful for the beauty of a creative God. My Camellia is heavy with blossom, a gift I always forget is coming.

~Our sweet Holland Lop, Penny, found a new home this week. We brought Penny home in March 2010, and she has really been a great pet. But as The Girl has gotten older and more involved with school and outside activities (not to mention the time her puppy takes to be cared for) poor Penny wasn't getting the attention she craved and deserved. We have a friend we met at The Barn, and she raises rabbits and shows them each year at different farming venues. We are so thankful for the gift of Penny, and we are relieved to know she will not only be given basic needs, but the attention and love we want her to have.

~My heart was craving extra solace this week. Not because of any particular burden I carry, or sadness that dwells, but because the changes of weather and time always turn my thoughts deeper. So I went to the website of our church in Fort Worth, Texas, Christ Chapel Bible Church. That body of believers holds a special place in my heart because I "grew up" there. I walked with the Lord through the deepest of sorrows, supported by that body, and as a result, my relationship with the Lord was changed for the better. I gathered strength in the Lord like I've never done before or since, and to this day I am grateful.

With all that said, I found myself digging through the archives of past sermons and found the #worthitall sermon series on the topic of suffering. If you are suffering, if you know someone who is suffering, or ever just wonder why suffering seems to mark our lives when we serve a God who has self-proclaimed to be good... please watch this series. The first sermon is entitled Only At Disneyland. Start with that one, and the link will direct you to the others. I'd recommend printing out the sermon sheets too. The whole series is a gift.

~ I'm so grateful to have shared a cup of tea (and a heaping dose of prayer) in my studio with my BritishBFF. My heart is full. In about six months time she'll pack up her blond headed family and move across the pond after nearly seven years of American living. The mix of feelings in my heart is more than I can write, but I'm thankful for this kindred spirit... and that we have already established Skype accounts.

~This week I had a conversation with a different friend to clear up a misunderstanding where I was at fault. I'm so thankful for God's grace, and that there are those who willingly and lavishly, extend grace when it's asked for.

These are just a few of the gifts I've received this week in the Little Yellow House on the Hill. Oh, that my eyes never dull, and I see many more...

Monday, November 03, 2014

Just In Time

We had a cool day at the end of August that turned my focus to fall. I began to dream of sitting under a soft warm afghan with hot beverages in my hand.

Last year, with a few bucks in my pocket, I made an impromptu stop at the craft store. This is almost always the perfect storm for random purchasing of yarn. I came home with an (overflowing) armful of jewel-tone colored yarn, and a pound of stark white. And it sat on a shelf, for over a year,  just waiting for inspiration to strike.

Sometimes, when I'm avoiding the laundry, or really any calling of the domestic life, I browse the inter webs for crochet inspiration.

It happened on that late August day, when the scent of fall came subtly on the wind. I found the recipe for my not-forgotten yarn: Purl Soho's Bear Rainbow Blanket.

The squares stitched up easily, though I did slightly change the corner stitches on the outside border of each square.

When I had the color part of the squares done, I didn't like the stark white, so I marched back to the store for something soothing and soft. I found a creme color that fit the bill.

This weekend I wasn't feeling well, still battling a chest cold I've battled for over a month. But my art classes were finished, and it was a good weekend to shut things down and sit a spell. So I rested and stitched putting squares together; tucking in yarn tails while the cold November air settled outside. In total it took eight weeks to complete, but she is finished just in time.

She might be my favorite afghan so far.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014


Things are feeling decisively Octoberish, which is just fine with me.

September felt like a rush of happy events. All good things, but I'm certainly ready for some Octoberish rest.

We started September with one last trip to the sea. A birthday celebration of a dear friend, and a chance to getaway with two other couples. We stayed in a condo right on the beach. Lovely, is all I can say. It was the first time we had left our now BIG-kids at home and they did great. Oh! how far we have come from those early days on this blog. {Wow, just went back to archives, 9 years ago… that truly was Confessions of a Grade School Mom. I can tell you, that was the last time I've had a hard-lemonade (yuck!)…  I can tell you my m&m habits have not changed. But those sweet babies… whew! I'm quickly approaching that target-shopping mama… but that's for another day.}

When we got home from the beach it was time to start teaching art, which I really enjoy. I will admit, teaching two full days a week has been an adjustment. I've had to re-learn how to manage the home, school, and extra curricular activities while "working." But when my little artists are sitting at my table, it feels like a privilege.

Special Olympics Equestrian Tournament is also a September event. This year The Girl was old enough to be a youth volunteer. I hope to sit down in a few days to post my thoughts on this year's events, but I can tell you this: spending a weekend with the riders, families, and volunteers working diligently for one goal is an amazing experience. It is long and hard work, but getting to share in the joy of others is a valuable gift, and far exceeds the effort. More on that to come…

Before we could wash the horse dust from our chaps it was time to dive into birthday celebrations for my seventeen year-old. Seventeen sounds so old, and honestly, I've struggled. It is hard for me to sit in the moment today, without thinking about the tomorrows. But I'm learning to keep my mind steadfast
on the gifts given right now. So we celebrated The Boy (who is quickly becoming a man)
with cake, and friends, and lots of love. It was a great birthday!

This month also brought a change in the air, and on the trees. Everything is getting ready to show their color before a long winters rest. I love to watch the change from day to day.

September has been full and hearty, and October feels like a good time to rest.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Work in Process: The Studio

My studio is shaping up as I prepare for a new year of teaching art.

Earlier this month I walked into a local consignment shop and had a love-at-first-sight moment with an antique breakfast hutch. I wanted to take her home then and there, but I hemmed and hawed (and hemmed some more) and waited three weeks to bring her home. I have to be honest, I don't do this sort of thing with furniture and home goods, but in two weeks I will have nearly 20 students coming to the house each week for art class. I needed some place to store supplies.

Now I can't imagine what I did without it. I love to just sit and look at the shelving and am very thankful to have a home for the endless supply of paper and paints in the cupboards and drawers of this beautiful hutch.

Of course, this new piece of furniture required a complete overhaul of the studio. I threw out/gave away over 10 bags of scrap fabric, leftover yarn, crayons, used paper, stickers, decade-old scrapbooking supplies, patterns, dried paint, empty markers, chewed up pencils, and sorted through several years of Christmas cards sent to us over the last 2 decades. Whew! it was a crazy three days… but, I am so happy to have an organized space; to have the WHOLE table to work on! {swoon}

The minute everything was in place I wanted to play, but I also didn't want to mess things up too much. I chose the least messy project to start: crochet.  I re-opened my Etsy shop (after a two-year hiatus) and listed my Blue Flowered Cowl and the Vintage Lace Wrap for sale. Then I made a blanket for a new baby at our church, based on a free pattern inspired by Call the Midwife. The pattern was simple and easy to follow, and I finished it quickly. When it was done I decided I needed to try my hand (again) at a Japanese pattern for a scarf. My favorite thing about that scarf is the name of the pink yarn: Rosalinda. (I pick my nail polish based on names too.) In the end, I'll wear it, but it is too short---which is what sometimes happens when you are using scrap yarn.

When Rosalinda was finished, I was "in the zone" and my crochet hook would not be put down. So I found this post on Moogly for a hat using a QuadTr (who knew?) to make really cool looking braids. By the end of last week, I had made one in Paloma Grey, and another in Oatmeal. This afternoon I have started a Popcorn Blanket square, though I'm not sure I'll make a whole blanket, I'd like to see how this pattern works out. That, my friends, is how you spell c-r-o-h-e-t--c-r-a-z-y. But, I'm using up a drawer full of yarn and I'm grateful for this last summer whirl of creative fiber art. Soon it will be time to haul out the paints and have fun with my students. Can't wait!

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Tale of Two Sandwiches

One of the things I love about cooking this time of the year is The Sandwich.

These two sandwiches have been on my dinner rotation a lot this summer: The No Mayo Chicken Salad and The Grilled Veg and Cheese. 

Let me tell you about them…

The No-Mayo Chicken Salad Sandwich

You may have heard this before, but I'm not a fan of mayo. I know, I know. I have lived in the south long enough to know that dissing on the mayo is kin to sacrilege, but I just can't help it. There is nothing that will bring on the heeby-jeebies faster than seeing mayo being spread on something delicious. It's just disgusting not my thing. So you might imagine that a chicken salad sandwich would not be high on my list of eating pleasure. However, I do like the chicken salad alternative, Brianna's Poppy Seed dressing, which is not only vegan* and delicious, but blessedly mayo free. 

And let me tell you, take some chicken breast and chop it up, throw some poppy seed dressing on it (I like mine on the dry side,) add some slivered almond and chopped grapes, and you will not be disappointed. 

Let me say it again, you will not be disappointed.

*I'm not a vegan but I have an Eater in the house who cannot have any dairy. 

The Grilled Veg and Cheese

Let me apologize in advance for this picture. The day I made this dinner I'd already entered The Hangry Zone. Every once in awhile the Stomach makes the Blogger care very little for staged photos. In the end, it doesn't really matter. This sammy is so good, it doesn't need a focused picture.  I won't say anything more, except to give you the recipe. (But really, it's a nice sandwich…and also mayo free.)

What you'll need:

A pound of zucchini, cut 1/8 inch thick, diagonally
3-4 slices red onion, cut 1/8 inch thick
1 red bell pepper, seeded and quartered ( I used mini bell's cut in half and used both red and yellow)
1 large tomato, not too ripe, cut 1/8 inch thick

2 Tbls Balsamic Vingar
1tsp extra- virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1.5 cup salad greens
5 ounces fresh mozzarella
6-8 fresh basil leaves

Single serving Torta bread (pictured) or 1-pound loaf ciabatta bread, cut in half horizontally

Mix up the vinegar, oil, salt and pep, in a mixing bowl. Toss veg in bowl with mixture. 

Spray grill with cooking spray, and light her up. Grill veg until tender (about 7 minutes) reserving leftover vinegar mixture. 

When veg is done, build your sandwich… layer cheese, basil, veg, greens, and drizzle reserved vinegar. Cover with top of bread, press lightly. Place filled sandwich on grill rack for 4 minutes or until cheese begins to melt. Cut in half (or in quarters if using large loaf). Eat!

Happy sandwich making!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Summer at The Little Yellow House on the Hill

It's hard to believe summer is more than halfway finished. The good news is that there are still 28 days left!

So far, we have had just the right amount of summer fun. You know, that sweet spot between summer is boring, and, what was I thinking when I planned this much? Either end of the spectrum is really tough, but that middle part? Yeah, it's good.

The Boy has been working as a lifeguard for a country club nearby, and The Girl has been taking full time care of that sweet puppy (whom we all adore, in case I hadn't mentioned it.) They both have had sleep-overs, swim meets, Netflix marathons, and lots of time with friends, which is exactly how it should be when the days are long and warm.

I've been on a major clean up here in the Little Yellow House on the Hill. We haven't moved in six years, and our accumulation was getting ridiculous. I can't stand the clutter, and I haven't done any deep cleaning (of significance) since last summer. I have been systematically going through each room, cleaning up and scrubbing down. I've been to our local Donation Center about five times in the last 10 days. It feels so good to clear space and get things sparkling again. Whew! Its like being able to breathe fresh air after a long time under a blanket.

I've also been working on a project with The Girl. We've been making art journals with the help of this book: Creating Art and the Speed of Life. We've completed the first three lessons (out of 30) and we are enjoying the time to be creative together. We won't finish before summer is out, so we will use it as part of her art curriculum next school year.

Speaking of school, I spent most of June preparing curriculum, and organizing for next year. We are ready… but it has been an adjustment coming to grips that our little school house will have only one student. The Boy will head to public school for his last two years of High School. He has been accepted to a program where he can earn some college credit while finishing out school. It is a great program and he is ready. The Mister and I are so excited for him, but the realities of my changing job description haven't come without some growing pains. It is hard to let go in these later teenage years. And this is just the beginnings…

Thank goodness there is much to keep me distracted… for instance, the neighborhood flowers. I am surprised every summer by the Hibiscus my neighbor keeps in her front yard. Each year she tireless works on her side of the hill, and each year it gets better and better. I'm thankful to enjoy her labor! The Hydrangeas are also so amazing this time of year, and thankfully I have a dear friend who lets me come to her farm to snap pictures anytime I want… and when I do, she'll most likely have hot tea and warm cookies to share. I should have taken pictures of her and those cookies… next time.

We still have so much to look forward to in the coming weeks. We will take a short trip north to visit dear friends before we all head back to school. And I've got a pile of books I'm plowing through (it feels so GOOD to read multiple books in one week.)

I'm sure in 29 days I'll be glad to have routine and structured order to my days, but so far this summer feels just right.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Snap It: Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study Blog Hop

I waited patiently for the Lord,
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet upon a rock,
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
A hymn of praise to our God. 
(Psalm 40:2-3)

Psalm 40 is a favorite of mine. About a year ago, early in the morning, while all was quiet but the lapping of the sea, I memorized these words. He tended my heart through His beauty set before me. The water, the clouds, the brilliant sun. His glory, my joy. 

It amazes me that the God who tends to all the earth, and everything in it, is the same God who redeems my life from the pit, who sets my feet on solid ground. 

The pits of life will come, be it the ones we hastily dig ourselves, or the ones in which we are shoved. In the end, it doesn't really matter. There is mercy in the pit, and we aren't meant to live there. Pits of any kind give us the opportunity to remember Who we belong to, and to call out "Abba!" He will come, and lift us up, and give us solid ground to stand.
 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8: 15-17)

 P31 OBS Blog Hop

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Summer: It's Just the First Week

It's delicious, this time of year, when the whole summer is set before us. As I type, I have (officially) been on summer vacation for about a week.

I've already dipped my toes in the Atlantic with a handful of friends. I took the puppy to the river for her first swim, and met (from afar, but still too close for comfort) one of my least favorite woodland creatures. Isn't it bad enough that Copperheads are slithery and poisonous? And now they swim? Ridiculous.

I wrapped up my last art class with my 3rd-5th grade girls. I cannot express how much I liked working with this group of girls. They are fun, sweet, and talented. They jumped into every project with excitement, and encouraged one another the whole way through. I just enjoyed being with them.

The day after the class ended, I received a book The Mister gave to me at Christmas. The Charlie Harper Coloring Book of Birds had been on back order for 6 months, but it came just on time. I cannot wait to decide how I am going to work Harper's art into next years curriculum.

Yesterday I took The Girl and her friend to the pool and they asked if I would take their picture while they flipped there wet hair back. It only took 147 shots (give or take a 100) to catch the double-flip action, but it made for some great fun, and I got to sit pool side on a lovely morning snapping away with my camera. Win-win.

The Boy started his new job as a lifeguard at a Country Club in our neighborhood. Because I do not belong to that club, and sixteen year old boys tend to frown on their mothers visiting them at work to take pictures, I did what any logical mother would do: I went covert. Which means I convinced my husband to drive me around the backside of the club, so I could lug my big old camera and snap away like some international spy. It would have all gone as planned, except I didn't count on their being two life guards. Apparently, the second guard, located just on the other side of that chain-link fence (but whom I did not see) took notice of the crazy person snapping pictures from a car through the gate. I may, or may not, have freaked out the second life guard (so much for covert.) But I got the shot I was looking for, and when The Boy got home and said that his shift was great, "except for when some weird person was taking pictures through the gate." I shook my head and said, "Huh, that is a little crazy."

So it starts. The days when the calendar has a few beautiful blank spaces left to breathe. And I get the opportunity to enjoy my family, my friends, and my home. It's gonna be a good summer...